Monday, September 29, 2008


Stimpy's war

I am glad to see my cats again, and they, I think, are also happy to see me. These are trying times for the feline duo, however- sister Katelyn is staying with her brace of girls: Kianna (aged one and a half) and Eva (knocking on six months.)

The presence of these two has forced the cats into hiding. Greebo has accepted her lot with great dignity: she sits in Joe's room and grows more serene daily.

Stimpy, meanwhile, is living a sort of inert, soundless existence beneath/behind Joe's futon, only to come out at night.


Friday, September 26, 2008


After the laughter

A celebration of five years, 15 million yen, half a head of hair, countless air miles, two hospitalizations, one trip to the cop shop, seven bicycles, a dead dog, several earthquakes and typhoons, three calls to emergency services, sixteen square metres of living space (including the toilet), millions upon millions of drinks, one helping of sea urchin and more fun than a boy could ever ask for.

Having the sayonara party the night before my flight was probably not the best idea. What was a good idea was getting rid of a bunch of surplus possessions by offering them up as bingo prizes.

We took to the boardwalk outside Namba Hatch, Leon brought along some bingo cards and the pair of us MCed it, although some of the references may have been baffling for people not from Earlsdon:

ME: Next, Daniel Watts's house, number 73.

LEON: You know Daniel Watts? He went to Bluecoats, Fatty Watts...

ME: Yeah, he lived next door to Will Leigh.

LEON: Who?

ME: Big ginger lad, my age.

LEON: Don't know him.

Living in ignorance of real bingo terminology, we just had to make do with what we could make up. Apart from examples like the above, there was also sexual innuendo ("barely-legal 17") and plenty of ribbing each other ("Leon's mum, 80"; "Dan's IQ, 6.")

Justin won the star prize: my bicycle. Other prizes included a Mt Fuji mouse mat, a multi-purpose bottle opener, a large and disgusting-looking cake and a football signed by the Osaka Jets.

This latter was won by Yusuke, but when Bailey and Gamble decided to stage a re-enactment of Sunday's shootout I feared the worst.

ME: Are you going to kick that thing in the river?

BAILEY: It's got to be done, hasn't it?

For a nasty second, I thought Bailey's shot was going to clear the river and do some damage to the plush yuppy bar on the opposite bank. Fortunately, it fell a little short of the far side and we were able to watch it floating for the remainder of the evening.

Later in the evening, the VMM attempted to hospitalise me with a thrown vodka bottle, before accidentally smashing his head against the table in a noodle shop. I can't blame him for being drowsy: it was around 4 am and I was sincerely beginning to wonder if my plane wasn't destined for disaster.

At 7 am, the alarm on the Ferrari phone woke me up: I rewarded the phone by forgetting it in the taxi I took to the train station. I got a train to the airport and arrived in plenty of time for check in, but then hit a snag: The limit for checked baggage was 20kg and I was rocking about 33. To put it in financial terms, this would equate to an extra 51,000 yen on the price of my flight. I dropped out of the line and came back 10 minutes later: 2 kg within the limit and my best jeans and other treasured possessions sitting in a dustbin.

And then it was boarding time: I slouched towards the plane feeling terribly hungover and thinking that I'd hoped to have left Japan with somewhat more dignity.

The plane took off and I went to the toilet. I looked in the mirror and saw the Awaji sunburn, faded to almost a tan, and the 10 kg of surplus baggage under each eye. I thought of five years in one of the richest countries around and not a penny saved, I thought of the misty mountains of Nikko, and I thought of Bailey hoofing the football into the river the night before.

And I thought tanoshikatta.

And I went back to my seat feeling pretty good about life.


England hasn't changed.

ME: Did that sign say "Vegetarian crossing"?

HE: Probably.

And later:

ME: Damn, that girl's got a face like the chippy's closed.

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Monday, September 22, 2008


The managerial career of Daniel McKeown, part 3

As it was to be my last Awaji tournament, Tricky handed the reins of power over to me, then continued to pester me over the phone every 20 minutes for the entire month leading up to the tournament, for such little things as completing application forms and why, oh why, had our name suddenly been changed from Real Osaka to Osaka Penguins (heh heh.)

He may have had a point though: I ballsed up the allocation of car space so badly, Bailey and I had to ride the bus out to the island.

First day:

Osaka Jets drew 0-0
Tokushima won 7-0 (?)
Inter Hyogo won 2-1
Murphys won 2-1

All good there. Highlights included me rolling back the years to 1950s Brazil with an outside-of-the-foot, banana-shot free kick against Tokushima, a richly undeserved 2-1 victory against Hyogo followed immediately by an almost equally undeserved 2-1 victory against Murphys. This latter was made possible by Eamonn (playing centre half for Murphys) going down with cramp under a speculative high ball, allowing Issei to steal in and bounce a shot off one of the other defenders into the goal.

Them's the breaks, Eamonn- you should have come jogging with me last week instead of taking your missus out to that swanky restaurant.

Having survived the first day, we were in a good position to thrive on the second day: Yuki, Takuro, Gamble were coming, as was Saito, the goalie.

Our first game was against the Hyogo side whom we'd somehow scraped past the previous day, but with our altered starting line-up, we were 6-1 up at half time. I brought myself on for the second half, and we only added another goal.

As the semi final kicked off, the weather conditions began to worsen. We went one, then two goals up against Shimane before conceding. We added another before half time and I brought myself on to add a bit more defensive steel to the team, whereupon we shipped two goals. Fortunately, Issei (whom I'd subbed off in my managerial wisdom) came back on and rocketed one home from outside the area to take us to the final.

At this point, the weather went haywire: lightning, accompanied by simultaneous thunder, forking down to the earth worryingly close to the football pitches. We scurried for shelter as the rain came down like bullets. The pyrotechnic mayhem continued for a good twenty minutes, before clearing up and leaving us contemplating a final played in ankle-deep water.

Happily, the pitch drained off very quickly (quality facility, Awaji) although some parts were still a bit mucky. Our opponents in the final were the Osaka Jets.

The first half brought a few chances, but a goal didn't come. I brought myself on for the second half and we promptly conceded. From my side of the field.

The pinkly-clad whoopsies of the Jets were ecstatic, but there was still football to play. Tricky delved down the left flank and pulled back for Gareth (aka Wee Bob) to smash home with his left. We had corners, Takuro hit the crossbar, but the time ran out and we were left with penalties.

Tricky scored (his third PK of the weekend), they equalised. Gamble pulled his fractionally wide, having probably been a bit affected by some banter from the opposition; they scored to gain the advantage. Yuki scored; Saito saved: all square. I buried mine; Saito saved. Bailey stepped up to shoot for the championship.

I thought it was going to be another "this is how to take a penalty" moment; sadly, it transpired to be a "this is how to hit the crossbar" moment. The Jets equalised with their fifth kick.

It was now sudden death. Gareth had his PK saved. Half of the Jets team rushed to celebrate their victory; the half who can count remained static on the halfway line. The premature victory celebration probably put more pressure on their kicker, whose shot Saito parried.

I sent up Takuro, who scored. They equalised. Gnashing my teeth, I sent up Graeme, who scored. They equalised again. Issei scored. They equalised. Yusuke scored. They equalised. Saito, our goalie, scored. Their goalie equalised. We had to start again from the top of the order.

For fuck's sake, I thought.

Tricky, the iceman, took and scored his fourth PK of the weekend. They equalised. Gamble, the glass slipper, hit his hard and to the right, their keeper got a hand to it, it still went in. I ran to embrace Gamble who was as limp as a strand of Ehime udon after the nervous tension of his kick. I promised him he wouldn't have to take a third spot kick, although I had my doubts as they equalised for the nth time.

Up stepped Yuki, to hit a carbon copy of his first PK, the only difference being that their keeper saved it this time.

Oh felch, I thought. Here we go...

Their lad, who'd seen his first shot saved, probably hadn't imagined that he'd be getting a chance to shoot for the championship. Fair play to him, he took it well: game, set and match to Osaka Jets.

I collected the runner's up trophy and threw it into a bush whilst the Jets were receiving the grand prize. Bailey retrieved it, and it was later passed on to Gareth who won our player of the tournament award, beating me into second place.

Other prizes given out included the "Roy Castle haircut award" for Leon, who shaved his head in the carpark after the first day's action, and the "Leon's head for a cock award" for Cameron, whose preference for a shorn member came to light in the bath-house on Saturday evening.


Thursday, September 18, 2008


Dan and Eamonn did Murphys

After an 0830 bedtime, three hours of sleep and a day spent toasting myself by the riverside at the VMM's barbecue, it was time for the long-awaited gig at Murphy's. The omens weren't good: I wasn't nearly as drunk as I should have been and the amp had exploded the previous night.

Nor did we get off to the most assured start. I strummed through the opening A chord of "Fake plastic trees" three or four times, while Eamonn stared off placidly into space.

"Er, any time you're ready..."

This broke Eamonn out of his reverie with such a jolt that he almost fell off his barstool.

1st half

Postman Pat (warm up)
Fake plastic trees
Perfect day
Stand by me
Think twice (reprise: No good)
Girlfriend in a coma

Notes on the first half: we were fine from 1979 on. Singing "Think twice" (a Celine Dion song) and finishing it off with "No good" (a Prodigy song) was a good laugh. I had to sing "Think twice" because Eamonn, quite wisely, hadn't bothered to commit the words to memory.

Galapagos was by far the most intricate song of the set and I wasn't helped by a latecomer, Kazu, bursting out in front of me to say "Hi Dan!" whilst I was attempting to negotiate the most fiddly bit. Fortunately, I made it through in one piece, Eamonn sang it angelically, and I was able to relax in the interval and stick two pints down my throat.

2nd half

Karma police
If you're into it
Father and Son
There is a light that never goes out
So long, Marianne
Lily (my one and only)

Highlights: Eamonn missing his cue on Father and Son for the umpteenth time; me ballsing up all the words to "There is a light..."; Bushman Jim standing next to the stage shouting "suck it!" at me in an attempt to put me off; me pulling faces at Eamonn every time he looked my way to put him off; Eamonn changing words to the songs:

For now I need your hidden love
I'm cold as a new razor blade
You left when I told you I was bi-curious
I never said that I was gay

Now so long, Marianne...

Ah, me... good thing we practiced...

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Ijime no Happo

There is to be a new TV anime series of "Hajime no Ippo", Shonen Sunday's popular boxing manga.

The manga, which covers the story of a bullied child who takes up boxing, began in 1989 and now stands at 85 volumes. The original anime series was broadcast from October 2000 to March 2002.

The new series will be broadcast from January.

from The Mainichi


Those hacks at the Mainichi screwed up the name of Ippo's arch-rival, though.

I'd almost be sad that I won't be here to see it, except that I don't have a TV, so I wouldn't be able to see it in any case.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008


E-mail from the mum

Title: disgraced myself tonight

Went to a clairvoyance night at (the) Clarence in aid of the Multiple Sclerosis society . As a total non believer in the after life, I did not take it seriously. When the medium announced, ‘Someone in the audience will get an invitation from a close relative to go down under,’ the chief sound was me howling with laughter. Doubled up, tears down cheeks and strangled sounds for several minutes- so childish


Well, no need to dread going back: not only do I have the famous McKeown sense of humour to look forward to, but clairvoyants at the local pub also.

Better than a gobful of eel, I suppose.


Friday, September 12, 2008


Latterday Simon & Garfunkel

Band practice continues apace: Bog-Irish Mick is good enough to let us drive away the few customers he has with our warbling and shenanigans. He criticises us for having too many "slow" songs, but I say tish and pshaw: our quality will shine through, come Sunday.

A Japanese patron, who is trying (with little- and by "little", I mean "no"- success) to seduce the lady on the next barstool, requests Simon and Garfunkel when I am gearing up to give Cat Stevens a whirl.

Flexibility is every musician's watchword: I dust off The Boxer and sing it quite nicely, if I do say so myself:

Asking only workman's wages, I come looking for a job
but I get no offers,
just a come on from the whores on 7th Avenue
I do declare,
there were times when I was so lonesome, I took some comfort there...

I bring it to a close and am rewarded with no applause, or- even- recognition from Japanese patron. I ask him whence his ingratitude and am enlightened with the fact that he doesn't know The Boxer.

Elaborating on this, he goes on to reveal that he doesn't know any Simon and Garfunkel songs at all, except for Bridge Over Troubled Water. And he doesn't get the title of this right, either.

I call him various things.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008


"The worst idea in a long, proud history of bad ideas"

Eamonn, bless his cotton socks, volunteered us for a slot performing at Murphy's bog-standard Irish bar on the 14th.

My initial reaction was one of horror. This was followed by curiosity, followed by horror again, then stabilised itself as morbid curiosity.

Here's the blurb from our facebook flier:

Ever been to a Murphy's gig and gone away thinking "I could have done a better job"?

Eamonn did after the last one; you may very well do after the next one.

Like a latter-day Simon and Garfunkel, we're going to be arguing the toss about musical differences and experimenting with facial hair.

We'll also be playing a rock-solid set, packed with classy tunes, and providing some top-quality banter.

Hope to see you there!

Mick advised us to aim for about 15 songs, which we may actually just about be able to manage. Band practice has brought us closer than ever and provided some wonderful insights:

ME: Did you know that if you shake your hand, hundreds of thousands of bacteria fly off?

Shake hand at his face to demonstrate. He is unfazed.

HE: Yeah, well- did you know that if you keep your toothbrush in the same room as your toilet, you eat a lump of shit every year?

ME: Do you keep your toothbrush in the same room as your toilet?

HE: I do now.

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Friday, September 05, 2008


Getting ahead in computing

A.B. Computers, a very compact computer hardware shop in Coventry's precinct. Young Saturday worker (herefter YSW) behind the counter. In walks M.I.B. (my idiot brother.)

MIB: Excuse me...

YSW: Can I help you?

MIB: Yeah, I was just wondering: what does the "A. B." in A. B. Computers stand for?

YSW: Er, I couldn't really say...

MIB (suddenly hostile): Yeah, right! You think it's easy, don't you? Just tag on some bullshit initials so your shop gets first place in the phonebook!

YSW: ...

MIB: Well, I've got news for you: I'm opening my own computer place down the road. And it's gonna be called A. A. A. A. A. A. A. A. A....

(pauses, takes a deep breath, continues)

A. A. A. A. A. A. A. A. B. A. A. Computers! So go fuck yourself!

(Sweeps an armful of computer equipment of the shelf, onto the floor and leaves.)

YSW: ...


For once, I wasn't able to persuade Joe to go through with it. If I had, it would have been pretty similar to the above.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008


"Signs of repeated use"

Police in Japan have been left red-faced by an apparent murder that turned out to be an unusual case of mistaken identity.

It began in the morning with a frantic call from a couple who had spotted a "corpse" while out walking their dog in a mountain forest in Izu, central Japan, the ZakZak news website reported today.


Though no crime had been committed, the spokesman could not resist admonishing the doll's mystery owner. The doll, he told bemused reporters, showed signs of repeated use.

"Our guess is that the owner didn't want to take a risk by throwing it away with the rest of his rubbish," he said. "It was an incredibly irresponsible thing to do."

Japanese murder investigators fooled by life-sized sex doll
The Guardian September 2nd, 2008



Last call for the Awaji tournament

...Also, can those of you who are intending to bring a WAG, paramour, catamite or sheep (Graeme) please send details asap.

(Via e-mail)


Monday, September 01, 2008


Oishiku mo nai

I was explaining to an OB that whilst "sushi", "sake" and "tofu" are likely to be understood by English speakers, variations thereof, such as "chirashi-zushi", "shiro-zake" and "age-dofu", are just going to confuse people.

He was good enough to explain that shiro-zake is made from rice and kouji.

Ah, kouji. I said, picking up my board marker. I haven't a clue what kouji is of course, but I figured I might as well have a stab. I sketched out a couple of kanji on the board.

On the left, kou: crimson.

On the right, ji: haemorrhoids.

Unsurprisingly, this turned out not to have been what he meant at all, although he had a good laugh at my attempt.

I admitted that I didn't know what kouji was and he conceded that shiro-zake wasn't really all that different from regular sake. Except for the fact that it was non-alcoholic.

I told him that calling it non-alcoholic sake would be a good start.

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